• Route: Rockies
  • Ride Year: 2024
  • Hometown: San Marcos, TX

About: Hiya, my name’s Mary Frances Finch!

I was born and raised in the city of San Marcos, Texas. Growing up, I spent the majority of my time with my family and my five closest friends: Ben, Sydnie, Thomas, Tyler, and Izzie. On most days, you could find us hangin out at the San Marcos river. The San Marcos river is special; its crystal clear waters are home to multiple endemic, endangered species like the Blind Salamander, the fountain darter, and Texas wild rice. The river is central to both the local ecology and the culture of the San Marcos community. The river will always have a place in my heart - it played a major role in my decision to pursue a career in the field of ecology and conservation.

I’m currently a senior majoring in biology with a concentration in ecology, evolution, and behavioral sciences and a minor in marine science. I’m not too sure what I’m going to do after college - I’d love to work for the Forest Service or Texas Parks and Wildlife. Regardless, I’m extremely passionate about preserving and protecting our outdoor spaces! I want to be part of a new wave of scientists that create dynamic management plans that address athropogenic threats to our environment. I think its vital that we also continue to strive to increase the accessibility of our public lands to underrepresented groups - our outdoor spaces can be a major source of empowerment!

If you couldn’t guess, I love doing things outside. My ideal day starts with an early run followed by a cup of coffee and a huge bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries, bananas, and a generous spoonful of peanut butter. The rest of my day is spent in the sun, kayaking the San Marcos river or hiking local trails.

Why I Ride

Laughter, a big smile, and a twinkle in his bright green eyes.

My dad taught me to love hard work. The grass in the yard grew long and haphazard in the spring, wildflowers growing in scattered patches. Saturdays in the spring were reserved for yard work - gardening, mowing, and various odd jobs that came up. The musk of cut, sun-dried grass filled my nose, sweet and familiar as I mowed. I sneezed, sweat dripping down my back. My dad was working with my sister to tame the chicken wire that would protect the peach tree from the deer - he looked over catching my stare, smiled and held up a gloved thumbs up.

My dad taught me to look at the world around me and not just appreciate it, but experience it. As a kid, we would often go backpacking together and it would inevitably rain or sleet. I grumbled and gripped as my boots got heavy with water, my socks squished and squelched, a blister already threatening to bloom on my heel. “How you doin’ Boogsies?” he would say grinning. When I was older, we hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim. There’s a portion of the Bright Angel trail called Devil’s Corkscrew; it consists of a series of tight switchbacks that snake up the southern wall of the canyon. It was mid-morning as we made our way up the switchbacks - I breathed heavily, the sun was scorching - any exposed skin was doomed to burn; the rock beneath me was so hot that I was sure it would burn a hole through the bottom of my shoe. I leaned my pack on the wall, sighing, and looked down the trail, trying to see through the shimmer of the heat. I found my dad just as he saw me, he gave a big wave. I could almost see his eyes twinkling beneath his tilley hat.

My dad taught me to savor simple moments. It was 6am. “Too early”, I thought as I wiped the bleariness from my eyes. We threw the fishing poles in the bed of his truck and hopped in the back. The sun was just rising as we set out down McCarty Lane, setting the world aglow with soft orange and pink hues. We got to the river and retrieved our poles. We threw in a line and sat in comfortable silence, watching the glassy surface of the water form eddies of green and deep blue. Beautiful.

My dad wanted me to see the world as it truly is - unadulterated, the good and the bad - because he knows life isn’t easy. My dad was diagnosed with an extremely rare autoimmune disease in his 20s. He has flare-ups every now and then, but none were as bad as his first. The first bout came suddenly, paralyzing his arms and shoulders for six months. My mom took care of him as they fought fear - an unknown disease, an unknown solution. After some time, his immune system calmed down, he worked through grueling hours of physical therapy and regained the use of his arms.

Soon after his first bout, he and my mom began raising a family - taught us the essentials: love God, love people, and love the Earth. Some thirty years later, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer. I was in highschool at the time and the diagnosis shook my world. Fear, hot and fast, flashed through me to my core. I couldn’t lose him. Not possible. Not yet. By some grace of God, he caught the cancer just in time. The doctors removed it, clapping him on the back, “You got by by the skin of your teeth.”

My dad loves big and smiles even bigger. I can’t express how much I appreciate him and the moments we’ve had as a family. I ride for him, I ride for my grandmother, Omie, and her mom, Oma, I ride for all those that continue to fight against cancer - I ride for hope and strength.